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Music Hall, Jigs and Strippers: English Low-Brow Music in French Nineteenth-Century Travel Writing

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Hannah Scott


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It is a commonplace to remark that nineteenth-century England was a land without music. Yet French travel writers in the fin de siècle remark again and again on their astonishing, low-brow musical encounters in the nation’s capital. The present article examines such experiences in the writing of Jules Vallès and Hector France, as they turn their steps away from the refinement of Covent Garden to seek out more esoteric musical experiences in the music halls, tawdry bars, minor theatres and strip joints of London. These texts present an intriguing and ambivalent textual form to the reader. Though being based on – and structured as – travel anecdotes, they no less insistently reach beyond the anecdotal experience to extrapolate overarching conclusions about the English and their character relative to France. Yet in doing so, their texts reveal inconsistencies and contradictions as they try to reconcile these strange musical experiences with the stereotypes of Englishness that had solidified over the generations; these alien musical experiences resist conceptualization and challenge the tropes that had for so long underwritten French ideas of the English Other.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Scott HL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Forum for Modern Language Studies

Year: 2019

Volume: 55

Issue: 4

Pages: 397-414

Online publication date: 21/08/2019

Acceptance date: 18/04/2019

ISSN (print): 0015-8518

ISSN (electronic): 1471-6860

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/fmls/cqz020


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